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The word “Hooch” has many meanings so let me just begin by telling you I am talking about a dog name Hooch who is a stray from Afghanistan.

Hooch came into our lives via our babysitter, Brittany. She is married to Al who is a Marine serving as a lead for the bomb squad as made popular in the movie “The Hurt Locker.” The reason I am writing about Hooch is because of his leadership qualities and his humanness.

Al found Hooch, or really, Hooch found Al during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2009. Al noticed Hooch around the camp and began feeding him since it was obvious Hooch didn’t have a home. Well, that was it, they were hooked. Apparently there are a lot of these stray dogs in Afghanistan and the military has set up a program where they can be adopted and shipped back home. Al did just this and soon Hooch entered into our, and more significantly, into our kids lives.

Hooch is big, I have no idea what breeds make up Hooch but it is safe to say one of them is in the “big” category. At the time he came to San Diego to live our son, Jack, was 2 ½ and ending up spending time with Hooch every week. He probably looked more like a horse to him than anything and Jack was understandably scared. When I went to pick up Jack for the first time with Hooch being around, I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was probably one of the gentlest dogs I have ever met. He came to you readily (which explains how Al got to know him) and enjoyed being petted by anyone. Jack quickly became comfortable with this gentle giant and talked quite a bit about him and Izzie (Hooch’s roommate). The next time I picked him up I walked in to see Jack sitting quietly on the couch with Hooch cruising around and Izzie laying on the floor below his feet.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the thought of “how could this animal be so gentle when it has probably seen things I could never imagine or want to imagine.” I don’t profess to know the brain of a dog but I do know the ones in my neighborhood go nuts when a few firecrackers go off making everyone miserable around them. Somehow Hooch was able to focus on what was in front of him not what was in the past and build the trust of others around him and make them happy.

Don’t get me wrong, Hooch is also a survivor. For instance, when the bird cage at his new home was left open while Brittany stepped out of the room for a minute, there was one less bird left chirping by the time she came back (fortunately my kids were not there). His survival instincts kicked in, I guess it is probably hard to break that habit when for so long you had no idea when your next meal would come.

What’s the lesson here? A simple one, as a leader you don’t have to let difficult circumstances get the best of you. Don’t forget who you are and what you can get accomplished by remaining calm and present without getting caught up in the past. If you do have a moment of weakness and make a mistake, learn from it, be man or woman enough to apologize and move on. These seemingly simple but often difficult-to-master behaviors will build trust and create a positive environment at work or home.

Remember, leadership is hard work and we all need to intentionally stay focused on today and how we can positively affect the people around us and not make them suffer for our past challenges.

Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly
Jack founded the Corlea Group in early 2009 with his first client coming on board in January of that year. Jack loves to coach. He coaches his clients and he helps coach his kid’s teams – it’s his passion and has been for over 25 years as a professional, father and volunteer. Why? Because he likes to help a team succeed.
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